Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Alyssa posted this with credits to Colleen

I think I enjoyed it mostly because I feel like I've been through that and felt all those things, so the blend of truth and humor is well received.

What is different about being 37?  A number of things.  I've actually sort of been mulling all of this over lately.

First, let me describe another recent exchange which amused me.  I was mopping up my sweat inside the yoga studio and listening to the cleaner talk to the other cleaner about boys.  Now, let me explain the context here.  I sweat a lot more than others.  Perhaps this is genetic, or perhaps I am just extra sucky at yoga, but for whatever reason, a kiddie-pool sized moat typically forms around my mat after class.  So, I first remove my soaked towel and place it in a plastic bag, then I dry off my mat and walk out of the room, stack all of this mess up in the corner outside where it can drain off into the grass somehow.  I change into dry clothes and throw my wet stuff in that same plastic bag with the other sweat soaked towels.  Then I go back into the studio to attack that kiddie pool.  I don't have to do this last step, and I don't do it every time, but as I've gotten to be better friends with all of the instructors and cleaners, I feel a certain obligation to deal with my mess because it's by far the biggest wet spot in the room and I'm no longer an anonymous offender.

Now, the cleaners at the various studios I go to are working on trade, they get free yoga for X hours of cleaning (I don't know the exact deal, but that's the basic story.)  So, they aren't professional cleaners.  They are all young fitness enthusiasts, educated, intelligent, and taking advantage of the barter system.  Often the last cleaner for the night will take the last class and then just clean everything up afterward.  I forget if this particular woman was in the class I took or not, but she started mopping up when I went back in to grab a towel and at least try to get the bulk of my sweat off the floor so she wouldn't slip and fall and hurt herself.  Meanwhile she is talking to the second cleaner about boys, about how relationships are hard, about how the guy she's not really dating but sort of seeing for the last 2-3 years doesn't have it together but if he did she could see herself marrying him quickly.  General stuff like that, your typical story of a mid-20's relationship where it's serious but not that serious, where you are playing with your own money instead of house money and you're cautious and hesitant to go all-in but yet you contemplate that possibility with optimism.  Looking ahead 10 years from 25 to 35 you see your prime, the marrow of your young adulthood and you are far more concerned with not wasting any bit of that marrow than you are with making any permanent decisions.

I asked her how old she was and while that is a rude question, for some reason I expected a concrete answer.  I was told 20's, and I assume possibly 22 or 23 ish based on the subtleties.  I chuckled to myself, though I witheld any sort of lecture because who am I to give advice on relationships or youth or aging?

I know that seems like a non story, but the point I just failed to convey is that the big difference between my mid 20's and my mid 30's is how my confidence has changed.

The confidence I had in my mid 20's was based upon my successes and experiences.  By my mid 20's, I had figured out a few things I was halfway decent at and a few things I enjoy.  Compared to being 15 or 18, 25 seemed like an entirely different order of magnitude of confidence in myself, I knew "who" I am and I knew "what" I bring to the world.

What changed in my mid 30's?  I think it is actually the erosion of some of that confidence.  Perhaps it was false confidence, perhaps I was so bold and brazen that I thought I was stronger or more capable than I actually am?  Or perhaps the natural destructive forces of life set in and by 35 I had worn myself down from the sharpness of 25?

By our mid 30's, many of us have experienced a loss or catastrophe, a death in the family, a beatdown of significance.  Maybe we've lost a lot of money on a bad investment, maybe our heart was broken in a way that feels permanent.  Maybe we went through rehab for drugs, maybe a fire burned down our house, maybe we wind up in a foreign country traveling, or maybe we simply buy our first house and realize how damn expensive it is to try to scrape a living together these days and how confusing those instructions in one-side-spanish, one-side-english can be when trying to replace a toilet valve.

Whatever the reason, while I've never thought of myself as overconfident, I've noticed lately an increase in my humility.  I've stopped using words like "never" and "always" and I've backed off on "should".  I've begun to accept that the world is not entirely how I perceive it, that people do not act how I might expect or want them to act.  I've started to embrace all of the different personalities in my life, especially the oddball ones which make no sense or perhaps even make me uncomfortable.

When I was 24, I wanted to stretch high, reach for lofty goals, take risks, experience the full magnitude of the intensity of living.  Now that I'm 37, I'm partially broken, partially bitter, partially humble, partially confused, and completely amazed every day with how much life there is worth paying attention to beneath the surface of everyday living.

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